SHENYANG, China — Trade Minister Stockwell Day brushed aside the notion that his government is changing its approach to China as he started a seven-day trade trip Saturday to the world’s third-largest economy.
Relations between China and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government have been often rocky as Harper and his ministers have frequently criticized China’s human rights record.
Day suggested media coverage has distorted ill will between the two governments.
“If an official says they’re going to talk about trade then quite understandably the media will say ‘what about human rights,’ and if you say you’re going to talk about human rights then quite appropriately the media will say ‘what about trade,”’ Day said in a phone interview from China.
“This is an ongoing relationship.”
Day didn’t rule out raising human rights during meetings with four Chinese cabinet ministers during his trip.
“While I’m here, there’s nothing that won’t be discussed,” he said. “There will be a wide range of discussions.”
Day said this week that Harper planned to visit China later this year.
Harper has met with President Hu Jintao a couple of times.
Day dismissed such comparisons.
“We are in a time of global economic crisis, it requires a lot of focus at home,” he said. “Mr. Chretien liked to be out of the country a lot, the prime minister (Harper) has many invitations in many countries and it’s a very busy time.”
Day also intended to raise the issue of Canada being left off the list of China’s approved travel destinations.
Canada is one of the few developed countries in the world not on a travel list that includes even Zimbabwe.
Getting on the travel list would make it easier for the growing ranks of China’s middle class to visit Canada.
Canadian exports to China totalled $10.4 billion in 2008, up 9.1 per cent from the previous year. Day — and representatives of the 16 companies and organizations that are with him on this trip — are hoping this visit will help to ramp that up.
Day met with the Communist party secretary of Liaoning province, Zhang Wenyue, in the city of Shenyang.
The men talked about bilateral collaboration in a number of areas including aerospace, agriculture, education, construction, oil and gas information and communications technologies and pharmaceuticals, Day’s spokeswoman said.
Day is to also visit Beijing and Beichuan during his trip, meeting with four Chinese cabinet ministers and Communist party officials.
He will also meet with two other Canadian trade delegations that are visiting China, during his stop in Hong Kong on April 16 and 17.